The Rams have yet to sign Aaron Donald to a contract extension that would make him the NFL’s highest-paid defensive player.
But while Donald attended meetings and worked out with teammates Monday, the Rams made several financial moves that appear to be laying the groundwork for a possible deal for the star lineman and others.
The Rams announced that punter Johnny Hekker and defensive lineman Ethan Westbrooks had signed extensions.
Hekker, arguably the team’s most valuable player last season, agreed to a two-year extension. The three-time Pro Bowl selection is now signed through the 2022 season. The deal includes $10 million in guarantees, according to several reports, which moves Hekker to the top of the scale for punters.
Westbrooks’ extension will keep him with the Rams through the 2018 season. The fourth-year pro signed a deal that is essentially worth $3 million over the 2017 and 2018 seasons, a person with knowledge of the situation said.
“Glad to get those two guys taken care of,” coach Sean McVay said, “and it should be able to allow you to do some different things moving forward with guys that you do want to try and get taken care of.”
The Rams also have made offers to linebacker Alec Ogletree and safety Lamarcus Joyner but neither has agreed to terms. Ogletree is in the final year of a contract that will pay him nearly $8.4 million this season. Joyner is due to earn $1.1 million.
Then, of course, there is Donald.
The three-time Pro Bowl selection ended his holdout on Saturday but did not attend the Rams’ season-opening 46-9 victory over the Indianapolis Colts at the Coliseum. McVay said he did not make “a big deal” about Donald’s return to meetings Monday.
“He doesn’t want to be a distraction at all,” McVay added.
The goal, McVay said, is to have Donald ready to play in some capacity for Sunday’s game against the Washington Redskins.
“As far as how he’ll be utilized in this game, and kind of exactly what that plan entails, is going to be predicated on how he feels going out to practice,” and after consultation with the team trainers and coaches, McVay said.
Donald is scheduled to earn $1.8 million this season and about $6.9 million in 2018. By reporting before the opener, Donald ensured that he could collect a near-$106,000 game check. His rejoining the team also probably opened the door for more give-and-take in negotiations.
McVay acknowledged that he traveled to Atlanta on the eve of the final preseason game at Green Bay to be part of the Rams’ contingent meeting with Donald’s agents.
“More just trying to show just how important this situation is to our football team,” McVay said. “Let them know I’m not going to be involved in terms of the money or the negotiations, but I just wanted them to be able to hear how important Aaron is for the overall dynamic of everything we’re trying to get done and accomplish.”
The Rams easily routed the undermanned Colts without Donald, but they could use a player who has amassed 28 sacks in three seasons as they play tougher opponents.
The Rams will try to build upon momentum from their victory when they play the Redskins, McVay’s employer the previous seven seasons. Hekker is expected to lead special teams, Westbrooks will contribute to the defense and McVay would like to see another strong performance by the offense.
After the victory over the Colts, quarterback Jared Goff said there was room for improvement.
“There was a lot of just missed assignments and various things across the board, but it’s all easy fixes,” he said, adding, “I think I speak for everyone offensively when I say we know we can do better than that.”
Cornerback Kayvon Webster is “questionable” for the next few days of practice because of a shoulder injury that forced him to come out of the opener, McVay said. Webster has not been ruled out for Sunday. ... McVay, 31, said he celebrated his first victory as a headcoach with his family as they watched “Sunday Night Football”. Others sent congratulations through texts and phone calls. “There would probably be too many people that you don’t want to single one person out,” he said.
Follow Gary Klein on Twitter @latimesklein